Once a month, the Globe fills with stories.
Strangers crowd around the bar's upstairs stage, lining the relatively small space. They crane their necks and mutter to each other. People drink, chuckle, exchange exuberant greetings. In time, eight people will file under the spotlight, one by one, to relate a personal tale. But in the meantime, people tell the daily stories of their own lives.
This is Rabbit Box — a monthly night of story sharing with a community spin. Whether it's Athens natives with tales of world travels or newcomers relaying their journey to the Classic City, each story is another step towards the ultimate goal — bringing citizens closer to each other.
Marci White, one of the cofounders of the event, said Rabbit Box has become popular rapidly since its inception in May, with a growing number of people interested in helping out with the event or with sharing their stories.
"People are really excited about it," White said. "People just naturally love it and even before they see it, people seem to understand why it's a great idea."
White said when she began the event with University of Georgia Instructor Ari Lieberman, the hope was to create a locally focused night in the tradition of events like The Moth and The Unchained Tour. For White and Lieberman, these events exemplify the catharsis and human connection innate in storytelling.
"Me and Ari are both fans of the Moth in New York and also the Unchained Tour," White said. "I saw the Unchained Tour both years that they came through and also hosted a couple of storytellers at my house. I was just so moved by the stories. Storytelling is just a very basic way of connecting with people and we just don't have that."
The first Rabbit Box, held at Avid Bookshop, began the format that has held true for the following two events. Eight storytellers relay true stories centered around a theme, without notecards or prompts, to a rapt crowd. The theme is announced one to two months in advance. While participants are required to stick with the theme, White said none of the organizers know what the participants' stories are until they go on stage.
White said that at May's event, organizers were getting recommendations from attendees that the event should move to a bigger space, prompting their relocation at The Globe. She added, however, that she always planned on moving it to a bigger location.
Later, Rabbit Box began offering services for those who wanted to tell a story but didn't have experience on stage. Pat Priest, co-creator of WUGA's "Athens News Matters," and Mary Whitehead, a local radio personality, serve as coaches for the event, cutting down on unnecessary elements of stories and helping people who want the service to organize their narratives.
Priest said the storytellers she's aided normally come to her not because they don't know how to tell their story, but because they don't know how to start it. This was the case, she said, with performer Agatha Collins, who told how she came to Georgia to start a beekeeping business during July's Rabbit Box.
"A lot of time people are just too close to their own story," Priest said. "They don't know what's superfluous. Some details are superfluous and some details are needed. When they talk about what happened, I look for what might be a good first line. With Agatha, when she was talking, she said she was afraid of all things natural, and I was like that would be a good first line. She didn't realize she had said it, but it fit in so perfectly with the other things that she was talking about that it just worked as a first line."
Many Rabbit Box participates become interested in the event after seeing a friend perform. Coggins, who performed in July, said she decided to tell her story after supporting one of her friends during June's Rabbit Box.
"When they said the theme for the next month was 'origins' I thought, 'Oh, I can do that,'" she said. "That was a case of my foot-in-mouth disease. But it was a lot of fun. I think people enjoyed the story. I hoped that it would resonate with the right people."
White said she hopes that eventually Rabbit Box's participants will become more diverse, and that there will be enough performers for organizers to have a roster to pick from. For now, though, the emphasis continues to be on creating an event centered around personal, local stories.
"We like for stories to be personal, to have meaning," White said. "This doesn't mean that every story has to be deep and serious, they can be funny, too. But I guess, personally, I like the more personal stories that have impacted people's lives."
Those interested in Rabbit Box can find more information on events and information on how to sign up at their Facebook page. The next session is this Wednesday night at the Globe from 7 to 9pm.